B2 — 5. General Dallas

Rachel kept her eyes closed as she rested her head against the glass, hair pulled over her shoulder as more agents continued to enter the building; she could hear the low mutters, questioning why they were there as people past Maria, Bree, and her.  Bree kept her lax composure, obviously tired herself, while Maria’s nearly inaudible breathes left her lungs.

She wasn’t concerned about her surroundings; her ears tracked General Dallas as Johnson guided him to Assistant Director Kelley’s office.  His presence seemed to cause as much gossip as she did as agents caught sight of him, but the General stayed silent through the entire trip.

A few of the whispers caused her ears to twitch and tail to shift uneasily.  “Hey, is that General Dallas? What’s he doing here; isn’t he supposed to be dealing with the Southern border crisis?”

“Yeah, I thought there were thousands of people trying to run the border?”

“I heard they were using some shady methods, though; my cousin phoned in, and apparently they’re using people with powers … even a Legendkin.”

Several other accusations were being thrown around, from killing hundreds of people to obscure past speculations of incidents overseas he was rumored to be a part of, but much of it sounded like conspiracies.  However, the thing that everyone agreed on was that he planned on using the people with powers as soon as possible.

Bree groaned, stretching and puffing out a long sigh.  “I haven’t slept in like thirty hours … I know that’s just me complaining, but I can’t help being tired.”

Keeping track of both Dallas and Bree was a little difficult.  “That right?”

“Yeah … I woke up after The Oscillation happened; when I figured out what was happening, I rushed to the office.  Well—Jonas’ place was along the way.”

She fell silent again, bending forward to stretch out her back.  Rachel pursed her lips as Dallas moved buildings. What’s his plan?  Does he want us to go back with him to the border and help out or something else?  There’s a lot of speculation, and his image is kind of low in general within the FBI because he’s not afraid to use the people that changed.  There’s no doubt that he’s here for us.

“Rachel…”

“Hmm?”  She rumbled a hum in her throat, still trying to catch anything important in regards to Dallas’ plan.

“What’s it like—the change?  I know Jonas hasn’t changed physically, but … what’s it like for you?”

She rubbed the base of her left ear with another low hum.  “It’s kind of—difficult to explain. My human ears are gone … now that I think about it, it’s kind of annoying not being able to pull my hair back behind them, but at least my hair always goes back to the same shape, and it doesn’t bother me that much.

“My ears, though … like I said, it’s hard to explain; hearing from so many places and being able to instantly know how to filter sounds, identify directions, subconsciously look for keywords to focus on—I mean, I hear the popping in people’s joints and stretching of their muscles.  Yet—it’s not odd or strange to me—it’s like I’ve known it my entire life; I can move my ears without a thought, and my tail is no different than my fingers. It’s all natural to me.

“Moving fast, seeing everything in focus—everything’s natural, but I know it shouldn’t be.  I’m the same person I was last week, but—I’m not; it’s the strangest feeling, but it’s not like I can fix it or go back.  I’ve more or less accepted that this is how it will be now, but there are still things I need to work through. I don’t know so much about myself now, but I do know a lot…”

She trailed off, causing Bree to suck on her lower lip.  After a moment, she took in a deep breath before slowly puffing it out.  “Yeah—I guess it is complicated; none of us know how this really works. By the way, you can go take a shower; I’ll stay with Maria.”

Rachel hesitated.  You’re kidding me … both of my options are good, and I don’t want to give them up.  I can build further trust with Bree right now, but I also need a quiet place to listen and strategize for whatever Dallas is planning.  I need to focus on the conversation with Kelley. Bree has opened up a lot already, though … I guess it’ll be best to focus on Dallas.

Running both hands through her hair, she felt each lock slide past her skin as she pulled it behind her back.  “That sounds nice, Bree. I’d really like to talk to you about this, but the call of a shower…”

Bree giggled, and Rachel’s voice softened.  “Give me a little time, and perhaps we can sit down together; maybe after we both get some sleep.”  She chuckled tiredly, rubbing her sore left bicep.

“Yeah, I think I’d like that,” Bree said, smiling tiredly.

Getting up, Rachel lifted both arms, feeling the pleasant and unpleasant burns break across her body.  “I really hope Maria gets well soon,” she mumbled. “I’m so sore…”

Bree hummed her acceptance, waving her off.  “Have a nice shower.”

Rachel slowly walked back the way she’d come; Fiona was trying to help Scarlet figure out how to properly put on the Cheongsam.  She turned her attention back to the General as he entered Kelley’s secretary’s office, Johnson opening the door for him.  She tried to distinguish between every sound that fed back into her ears, discerning what actions she could from the scene.

The secretary spoke before both men.  “General Dallas, Assistant Director Kelley is waiting for you.  You can step right through.”

“Thank you, Lora.”  He paused halfway to the door.  “Ah, Johnson, could you wait for me to finish.  I’ll probably need your assistance.”

“Of course, General,” Johnson replied, taking a seat in one of the chairs by the door.

“Excellent,” Dallas opened the door to Kelley’s office, shutting it behind him; he straightened his jacket and sucked on the roof of his mouth, a soft chuckle escaping his throat as he walked further into the room.

The woman’s voice that greeted him was filled with exhaustion and left the impression that she was advanced in years.  She groaned a soft curse at his entrance, leaning back in her chair. “Why’d you have to come here? I’ve got enough problems.”

Tom yawned a soft laugh.  “Nice to see you too, Ruth; well, you happen to meet all the right criteria.  You know how it is.” He sighed tiredly. “Some of your load is about to be dropped too, for better or for worse.”

She leaned forward, rubbing her face with a low moan.  “What’s happening at the White House?” Wrapping her fingernails against the desk for a moment, she shifted in her seat.  “New department?”

Something creaked as Tom leaned against a chair in front of Ruth’s desk.  “Well, obviously—the president is putting together a new department to deal with The Oscillation cases; not surprising, but guess who got picked among the candidates for Assistant Director.”

“David,” Ruth muttered.  “It makes sense; he was cleared for the position as a potential candidate last month.  I’m sure the thoughts been rolling around his own head.”

“If he chooses to take it, then he’d be in a hell of a spot.  I would have chosen Decker, personally—but you take what you can get.”  Tom huffed. “David isn’t the worst choice.”

Ruth grunted, shifting her legs in the opposite direction before leaning further back.  “At least I’ll get a lot of this crap off my desk. There’s a lot of unrest in my department right now with all this information flooding in.  So, what stars aligned that allowed you to be in front of my desk right now? You’re a busy man, Tom; what’s caught the president’s interest?”

Tom chuckled, tossing the folders atop her desk.  “Straight to the point.” He clicked his tongue, walking to the windows.  “You’ve got a nice view; it’s better than the last building—keep the information scarce.”

Ruth opened the files, reading through the information, they both went silent.  After a moment, Ruth grunted, scratching her scalp as a low rumble reverberated in her throat.  She uttered a low curse. “How did you get all of this information? It’s terrifying if all of it’s true.”

Taking a deep breath, Tom puffed it out.  “You’re not wrong, but that’s not our main concern; at least not right now.  We have a whole lot of crap happening around the world; that first file you read, keep your lips sealed … I had to get a Presidential seal to show you those.”

Cursing again, she shifted a little in her chair.  “Tom … what are you getting me wrapped up in? This is scary stuff; apocalyptic … makes everything up ‘till now look like a picnic.”  She uttered another low curse as she flipped a page.

He was silent for a moment as he continued staring through the windows.  “I know—that’s why I’m here.  Open up the second file.”

She complied, smacking her lips before breathing through her teeth.  “The Mythickin and Legendkin … I knew your visit had something to do with them.  You’ve got even more information than I’ve been briefed on,” she swore, “this Rachel…”

Her tone lowered.  “I’ve been updated on the Lunar Hare’s abilities; apparently she’s got super hearing … probably listening in on everything in the base, us included.”

Tom’s tone turned pleasant.  “I’d be disappointed if she wasn’t.”

Rachel’s eyes narrowed as she slowed, leaning up against a pillar to look down at the walkway between the glass buildings.  She was halfway back to Scarlet and Fiona. They were talking with Serah; Scarlet had already located her and knew she was on her way back, so they were waiting for her return.

So, Tom knows a lot about our abilities; he is one of the highest-ranking members in the Military, so there’s no doubt he’d have everything at his disposal.  What’s in that report, though? Apocalyptic—what’s worse than what we’ve already been through … a second Oscillation or something worse?

Tom cracked his neck.  “I’ll be honest, Ruth, I was skeptical myself, at first, but we need to prepare for whatever might come.  We don’t have all the pieces, but enough to make everyone start moving; as far as I’m aware, we’re the only government to pick up on it, but everyone’s trying to hide something.

“The U.K. is keeping that massive tree tight-lipped.  We’ve tried to use our satellites, but the thing’s too massive … CIA was able to get some useful information, though, and the stuff that’s happening in South America and Russia … we need to restore order and get the proper information out—in a way that won’t spark panic.

“For the most part, we’re getting everything under control, but the rest of the world is in shambles.  The border is currently secure; we need to take care of our own citizens before thinking about others.”

“It’s the right choice, even if it’s hard to hear,” Ruth muttered.  “So, how freely can we speak if the Lunar Hare is listening in on us?  Obviously, you’re not worried about some information.”

“Most of what I’ve talked about either will hit your office soon, or you have agents already talking about it; speak your mind,” Tom stated.  “Don’t worry about anything other than that first file.”

“Glad to hear … my head hurts just thinking about it—I’d like to forget that subject.  Let the president and the Cabinet worry about it. What’s the deal with the Mythickin then?  It looks like you’re primarily focused on the four involved with the South Beach incident, but you have a lot more data on others throughout the States … looks like you’re already poaching them from other countries too.”

“Don’t make it sound so bad,” Tom grunted.  “We’re offering citizenship to others and giving them the choice of extraction out of their home country; it’s not like we’re kidnapping them.”

“Right, right,” Ruth mumbled, flipping through a few more folders.

Walking over to the desk, Tom sat in a chair across from Ruth, folding his legs.  “From the data compiled, we’ve got to act fast. It was actually a lot of the reports I received from the psychologist, Doctor Richards, that made me shoot the gun and come over here.

“However, yes, I’ve talked with every soldier that interacted with them and had the teams working around the clock to dig up as much information as they could.  To be frank, they’re perfect candidates for Special Forces, but I doubt they’ll be interested in that direction from the profile.”

“Oh, got a profile already?  Did you hear about the recent report?”  Ruth asked with a short chuckle.

“Hmm, what recent report?”

“Not surprising; it was delivered a few minutes before you showed up.”  Tom waited patiently as Ruth took a drink of something. “David just informed me that the Lunar Hare had some demands and knew quite a bit; she knew about your plan for a Mythickin squad and told the agents escorting them that they weren’t interested.  They want to be treated as U.S. citizens like the president indicated they would be; if we’re charging them with anything, they want legal counsel.”

Tom chuckled deeply.  “She’s better than I thought—a perfect candidate.  From what I’ve gathered, Rachel is intelligent, but also strategic and able to detach herself emotionally from a situation.  Not perfect, but for a normal citizen with no combat experience to handle the situation in South Beach, and as ruthlessly as the report shows … phenomenal.

“Not only that but the others and their dynamic abilities are nothing to scoff at; they functioned as a decent team from what an on-site Captain told me.  Every soldier that’s interacted with them has spoken with respect; it’s not easy to gain the respect of SEALs and Green Berets.”

Ruth hummed thoughtfully.  “You don’t think they’re dangerous?  They haven’t even had their psych evaluation.”

“Dangerous?”  Tom snorted. “Ruth, a SEAL is lethal but controlled, disciplined.  Did you see the psych notes from Doctor Richard?”

“He wasn’t appointed by me and doesn’t have security clearance.”

 “No,” Tom shrugged, “but he is qualified, and his report is quite detailed.  I think that Rachel is very methodical, and if you treat her like an enemy, then you will be dealt with in turn as an enemy; political or otherwise; I believe she has the means to adapt to most circumstances.  She’s a perfect soldier, but it is clear that she does have her own issues to work through as stated in the report.”

“So,” Ruth groaned.  “That first file was meant to show me that you’ve been given a lot more clearance and power than what I’ve heard … the game has changed.  It almost seems like you expected something like this to happen…”

Tom’s tone turned serious.  “Murphy’s Law.”

“Always preparing—so, what do you need from me, Tom?”

“I think it’s pretty obviousI want to sit down and have a chat with Rachel; off-camera, complete black book, and then I’ll let you know how my plan changes.  David can hamper me a bit, which is why I needed to get ahead of his promotion. He’d want to be roped into all of this, and once he’s Assistant Director, he’ll have the clearance for at least that much, but right now, you’re in command, and I’ve known you a hell of a lot longer than him.”

“Fair enough,” Ruth said, rubbing between her eyes again.  “They’ve requested some time to rest, and the psychologist the Director suggested won’t be here until the afternoon.  I know you have a lot of weight at the Pentagon, Congress, and White House. You’re not the hasty type, though … there are people in power trying to block you, isn’t there.”

“Isn’t there always,” Tom muttered.  “It’s best I get what I can while Martial Law is in effect.”

She nodded.  “Shoot while you have the gun in hand; makes sense.”

Rachel breathed out a long sigh as she stared at the ground.  This didn’t turn out anything like I planned.  There’s something big happening behind the scenes.  There’s no use speculating on it right now if it’s this classified; if an FBI Assistant Director isn’t qualified enough to know about it, then no one nearby would.  He’s going to come to me, and I can ask him directly. He wants something from me, but what is it, and what can he offer?

She made her way back to the shower, catching sight of Scarlet, Fiona, and Serah sitting on the couches outside the bathroom.

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“Rachel!”  Scarlet waved, rising to show off her gown.  She did a quick twirl that made her black hair and dress fold around her body, “What do you think?”

Fiona floated above her, doing a similar spin with her dress.  “Isn’t she gorgeous?”

Rachel smiled, closing the distance.  “Yeah, it really suits you … by the way, I just realized it, but aren’t we going to get some sleep soon?  Isn’t dressing up a little much?”

Both Fiona and Scarlet’s features froze before Scarlet muttered, “Oh … yeah.  I kind of forgot.”

Giggling, Rachel shrugged.  “You can just take it off and sleep in your underwear.  It’s not a big deal.”

“What about me?”  Fiona whispered. “There weren’t any small underwear for me…”

“Hmm,” Rachel sucked on her lip.  “In the nude then.” Fiona looked mortified as she quickly looked around for prying ears, cheeks burning.  “What else do you want me to say?”

Serah looked amused as she joined them.  “Yeah, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.  Who would even notice you?”

Fiona’s ears drooped a little as her features fell.  “Well—why don’t you make me feel even more depressed.”

“No,” Scarlet soothed, shifting to the left to look up at her.  “They don’t mean you’re not pretty; you’re just—small. People wouldn’t notice you that well.”

“Not helping,” Fiona whispered.

“Sorry,” they all said in unison.

“It’s fine—whatever…”  She mumbled, floating to the pillows on the couch to plop into one, wings vanishing.

Feeling a little bad, Rachel scratched her neck.  “So—Maria’s waiting for the sun to come up. It’s rising right now, so—Scarlet, you should probably get into a closed-off room.”

“Wait,” Serah’s eyebrows came together.  “You’re saying sunlight actually hurts her?”

Scarlet nodded gravely.  “It burns—really burns, but the worst part is the loss in my energy … it makes my teeth pulse, my stomach turn, and my skin itch.”

“Sounds horrible…”

“Anyways, Scarlet, you and Fiona find a room to get ready.  I’m going to take a shower and meet you there. I’m sure Maria will join us when she gets some sunlight.”

“Sounds good,” Scarlet beamed, glancing at Fiona; her cheeks were puffy as she laid against the pillow.  “So—umm, Fiona, would you like to tell me more about your sister?”

Her depression faded in an instantly; her wings appeared, and she rose back into the air.  “Yeah! What do you want to know?”

Rachel moved to the bathroom door, waving at the three women.  “Alright, I’ll see you in a bit.”

The three of them smiled and waved.  Walking inside, Rachel looked around at the damp space before locking the door; her chosen clothes were still in the corner with Maria’s.  Taking a deep breath, she undressed, wincing as her clothes slid past bruises and cuts.

She did a quick inspection of her body in the mirror, pulling her hair to the side to get a better view of her back; there were strange gray marks across her back that she assumed were her version of bruising, and several cuts had light white scabs across their length.

Her fingers traced a few gray spots along her lower back, the needle-like pain causing her to wince.  After a moment, she turned her attention to her figure. I’ve lost a lot of hard muscle, but that doesn’t mean I’m not tone … wait, did my butt get a little bigger.  Well then, alright. My legs were a bit long, to begin with, but I feel like I might have actually grown an inch from my legs alone.

She released her hair with a light sigh.  Why do I even care?  I guess it’s just crazy to think about.  Her vision shifted to the corner, centering on the bag of pads Scarlet had found by two white towels.  Do our bodies even function the same anymore?  I haven’t felt like I needed pads, but who knows … better to be safe.

Moaning, she cupped her neck with both hands, rolling her head.  I’m sure the others have the same questions.

Rachel’s ears folded a little as she scratched her neck; Tom was briefed on the recent report Bree had given, and her request to the Military regarding the women frozen in ice.  He was currently talking with Johnson, setting up a room for them to meet in before Johnson asked around for her whereabouts.

Starting the shower, she tensed as the water slid past her cuts, but it didn’t hurt as much as she expected.  The water was cold, but with her Cold Resistance, she didn’t even lock up. She hummed as the liquid slid down her smooth skin and soaked into her thick hair, sticking at her back.  Cold water isn’t that bad; it’s actually pretty refreshing.

Washing her hair and body, Rachel dried herself off; the water in her hair absorbed into the towel like a sponge, soaking it.  Dressing in the attire she’d chosen, she stretched out, looking down to catch a few cuts oozing white blood.

Moaning, she took out some paper towels and dabbed at the blood, frowning at the thick liquid.  My body’s so strange now … maybe I should ask Scarlet how it differs from humans.  That might be interesting; maybe I have different vital organ placement.

Yawning, she stretched out her core and threw away her torn clothes before looking at her reflection in the mirror.  The white shirt was thick enough not to show the black sports bra underneath but was tight enough to show a light impression.  Her black shorts stopped at her upper thighs, showing off her long white legs, and her black, and white Nike’s matched the color scheme of her white skin to black clothes.

She left the bathroom, the bag of pads pressed against her left side; she kept her features neutral as she caught sight of Tom, sitting on the couch across the hall.  Johnson sat beside him; his vision quickly scanned her features.

Tom smiled, eyes darting up her body before settling on the pads for a moment, and finally moving up to her face.  He sat back, posture relaxed, but his scent and minute twitches gave him away; his muscles told her that he was nervous.  “Rachel, I take it you’ve been keeping tabs. Why don’t we go somewhere a little more private?”



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